Publicity is the art of building awareness of a book and platform with its target audience. The objective is to gain positive coverage by connecting the media with the audience. Coverage may include reviews, interviews, feature articles, guest articles, op-eds, and mentions of the book, the author, and/or the publisher and any related brand/platform.
Ideally, publicity will translate into sales, and, like sales, it is a subset of marketing. Many publicists today also function as marketers in that they help the publishers and authors they work with create and build platforms. The process starts with a marketing plan that includes publicity, social media marketing, and other promotional services designed to connect with target media and audiences.
Why does a book need publicity? Because it can be the greatest product in the world, but if nobody knows about it, it won’t sell. It’s like the proverbial tree falling in the woods. In today’s fast-paced world of technology, where consumer attention has become increasingly fragmented, the “mainstream” is giving way to a stream of hyper-individualized digital experiences.
A good publicist has relationships with the media that help generate coverage. This is especially the case in established media outlets, where people are more likely to act on a pitch from a publicist they trust than on an unsolicited query from someone they don’t know.
If you’re planning to hire a publicist, be aware that fees vary greatly, depending partly on the length of engagement and the complexity of the campaign. In my experience, the average book campaign runs from three to six months with a flat monthly fee, which ranges from $250 to $10,000. Some publicists may be willing to charge by the hour.
Find out about reporting processes as well as about fees. You’ll want to have regular updates—both positive and negative.
I recommend looking for an independent publicist or publicity firm in your area. It’s easier to stay in close touch throughout a publicity campaign if you can have in-person meetings and if you don’t have to deal with time zones.
Whether you outsource or rely on staff, the five-point plan that follows should help you build publicity for any given book.
Timing is everything. All elements of a publicity campaign—your own attention, the public’s attention, and the media’s attention—should be carefully orchestrated around a book’s release date.
The release date also puts a time stamp on the material. Like the aroma of fresh-baked bread, the date stimulates hype and expectations, promising something to look forward to.
This is why it’s so important to strategize and come up with a PR campaign at least six months before publication date.
Develop Your Online Message and Brand
Positioning a book with media and consumers requires a professional Website. Both consumers and media professionals will visit a book’s site before engaging further with the book, and the media people will need to check it out months before pub date.
Since the site should reflect the book, the author, and the publisher accurately and professionally, it makes sense to seek the help of a Web designer unless you have a knack for visual design and are tech savvy.
A book’s Website needs five key pages: About the Author, About the Book,
Appearances, Media, and Contact. Effective sites often have other pages as well. [See “What Publishers’ Websites Can Do, Part 3,” in this issue, and the first and second installments of that series in the November and December 2012 issues.]
The site should be integrated with activity on social media networks, and its content should be social media–friendly. Make content easy to share by including links to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites.
Blogs can be beneficial, even wonderful, if an author can commit to creating original and relevant content every week.
Build Your Social Media Platform
When you choose to blog and/or use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and the like, start early, as with the Website. Publishers and authors who are not yet active on social media sites should become active three to five months before publication date.
Plan Your Media Campaign
Create a targeted list of print, online, and broadcast media in local, regional, and national markets. Offer a copy of the book to long-lead media (print magazines, TV and radio shows) at least three to six months before publication date. Online media and bloggers usually work on shorter lead times, often two months.
You may want to sign up for NetGalley or a similar online sharing service to allow media professionals and bloggers to download and review your book.
Use an email marketing tool (for example, ConstantContact.com or MailChimp.com) to send announcements to your email list(s) before the release of a book. Space the announcements, sending one a month before pub date, one a couple of weeks before pub date, and one on pub date.
Both publisher and author should engage their social media networks to create buzz for the launch with contacts, fans, friends, and family. Tactics can include asking people to post Amazon reviews and/or blog reviews, and asking them to share reviews on their social media networks. You might also want to offer a free book or some other prize as an incentive.
Blog reviews are a great option for do-it-yourself publicity programs because there are so many bloggers (see Affordable PR/Communications Programs and Services, below) and because bloggers are often open to approaches from authors. Of course, before any approach it’s important to (a) check a blogger’s review policies and reading preferences and (b) vet the blog to make sure it is legit (check a couple of reviews; check followers, social media reach, and so on).
Once you find blogs you think are right for a book, browse their blogrolls. Often, you will find nice long lists of other blogs in the same genre.
Measure Your Results
Refer to your Amazon rankings, Website analytics, social media reports, and Google Alerts to track the effectiveness of all elements of your publicity campaign (as well as the other aspects of your marketing program) and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Affordable PR/Communications Programs and Services
● PR Web (prweb.com)
● Bulldog Reporter (bulldogreporter.com)
● Book Blogs on Ning (bookblogs.ning.com/?xg_source=badge)
● Book Blogger Directory (bookbloggerdirectory.wordpress.com)
● FSB Media Blogger Directory (fsbmedia.com/book_blogger_search.php)
Resources for Finding Publicists
Julia Drake is the founder and owner of Julia Drake PR, a boutique literary publicity company that specializes in customized print, online, and broadcast campaigns, social media marketing, book events, blog tours, promotional video services, and author Websites. This article is adapted from Julia Drake’s contribution to Successful eBook Publishing: The Complete How-to Guide for Creating and Launching Your Amazon Kindle eBook, by David Wogahn; see SuccessfulEBookPublishing.com.